Friday, March 21, 2008

Super-Duper Amazingly Fantastic Friday, All Sins Forgiven Or Your Money Back

My good Jewish internet friend, Stu, posed a serious theological question on his blog the other day. I gave him my sincerest answer to that question. When he reads what follows here, he may wonder about the worth of that answer. I can't say that I'd blame him.

What follows is a repeat from Good Friday of last year. I've seriously pondered about putting this out here again. In the end, I've come to the conclusion that I still believe every word in it. Whether I put it out here or not, the sentiments expressed in the piece are still in my heart. So, if God is omnipotent, and likes a joke as well - both of which I posited over at Stu's place - I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by re-publishing.

The only other thing nagging at me was whether or not I'd be self-serving to publish it again. After all, I just said "I have nothing to lose and everything to gain by re-publishing." That sure sounds self-serving.

Nah. God knows what's in my heart. I might be misguided, but I have to believe He would find my intentions decent. Of course, the road to hell is paved... or something like that.

Enough blathering! Enjoy. Or, if you don't enjoy it, be a better Christian than me and say a prayer for my forgiveness.


As you read this, it is Good Friday. What the hell are you doing reading this, you heathen? You couldn't possibly believe that anything I have to say is divinely inspired. Get your ass to church.

OK, now that the easily-guilted holy rollers are gone, let’s get down to business.

(By the way, I’m writing this on Thursday night, wise guy; that’s why I’M not in church, OK?)

(Well, all right, it IS Maundy Thursday, but my feet are already clean.)

(That’s a Catholic joke. See, Maundy Thursday was when Jesus washed the feet of his disciples, showing them that the way to do His business was to serve others, no matter how high and mighty you were perceived to be. In the Catholic Church, some parishioners have their feet washed by the priest at Maundy Thursday services.)

(Except in Boston, the Archbishop refused to wash the feet of some female parishioners a couple of years back. He said something to the effect that Jesus only washed men’s feet, so he wasn’t going to wash women’s feet, either. That’s why I haven’t been to a Catholic mass in quite some time, even though I’m most definitely still a Christian.)

(So now, I’ve gone from lightly sacrilegious and flippant to deadly serious. Bummer. Let’s see if we can recapture the mood.)

Jesus is hanging on the cross. He looks down and sees Mary Magdelene crying.

Jesus says, “Mary...”

Mary looks up, still crying, and says, “What is it, Lord?”

Jesus says, “Mary...”

Mary again says, “What is it, Lord?”

Jesus says, “Mary, it’s... amazing.”

Mary says, “What, Lord? What is it? What’s amazing?”

“I can see your house from up here!”

Whoa, Pilgrim! Don’t go away mad. You think it’s just a crummy blasphemous joke, but I can justify almost anything. Nothing up my sleeve... PRESTO!

See, Jesus is closer to heaven and he can see Mary’s house IN HEAVEN. He’s telling her that her faith has saved her and that she will spend eternity in paradise. Hah!

And I guess that’s today’s lesson: It all depends upon your point of view. This is “Good” Friday, right? Why? Why do Christians call this “Good” Friday, when this is the anniversary of the day when their savior was murdered; the day He was nailed to a tree and died a miserable, painful death?

Because without the cross – without the death - none of us can ever see our house in heaven, no matter how high up we are here on earth.

(Boy, that was pretty good! Quick! Are the easily-guilted holy rollers still within shouting distance? Call them back. Maybe this is divinely inspired. Let’s see if I can wriggle out of another one.)

So, see the painting up above, of Jesus on the cross? There’s a plaque nailed to the cross, just above His head. The plaque reads “INRI.” Want to know what it means?

I’m Nailed Right In.

Well, what it really means is lightning bolts should be coming any minute now and I’ll be going to hell immediately if God doesn't have a sense of humor. However, I believe that God has an amazing sense of humor. My belief is that, when we die, we’re going to find out that this whole thing was one long and involved joke. And we’ll laugh and laugh and laugh when we hear the punch line.

Or, if you don’t find that terribly convincing, try this on for size. If God doesn’t have a sense of humor, what can we expect in the afterlife? An eternity without laughter? Hey, kill me now and leave me dead; none of that resurrection shit for me, thanks.

Or are some jokes theologically sound and others not? Maybe. We all have subjective senses of humor, I guess. Maybe God does, too. If so, the only way to know for sure is if we can hear God laugh. Then we’d know what He finds funny. Let's try it. Everybody be very quiet for a minute. Cue Simon & Garfunkel.

(*sounds of silence*)

So, I don’t hear God laughing. I’m assuming you don’t hear anything, either, right? Well, that's OK; it wasn't that good a joke. Maybe we'll try again later.

What it comes down to is having faith. One way or another, you've got to have faith. If you don't, you're screwed. My faith lives in the belief that everything is for the best and that everything will be revealed in the end. Now, if what's revealed in the end is that God has absolutely no sense of humor whatsoever, and He's royally pissed off at me for this, then that's the way it goes; I'm doomed. But if God has no sense of humor, I've been doomed for a long, long time now. You, too - so at least we'll all fry together.

(The following will seem totally unconnected, but wait for it.)

I remember watching The Mike Douglas Show, one day when I was a kid, and he had this comedy troupe on. For the life of me, I can't remember their name. However, the bit they did has stuck with me forever. It was a parody of Moby Dick.

Ahab and Ishmael are standing on the deck of the Peqoud. Ahab is looking through a telescope. Suddenly, he sees something and gets all excited.

Ishmael: "What is it? What do you see?"


Ishmael: "Let me see."

Ahab hands him the telescope. Ishmael puts it up to his eye and looks out at the sea. After a little while, he takes the telescope down from his eye and hands it back to Ahab. He says:

"Eh. It's a good white whale..."

Now, I know why it's called Good Friday. It's because people were saying, "What a horrible day! They've croaked Jesus!" And so it had to be explained, over and over, that this was actually not a bad thing when you consider how it plays out in the end. So, "Good" Friday.

But why not really get the point across? Why not go all the way and call it Great Friday? Or even Super-Duper Amazingly Fantastic Friday, All Sins Forgiven Or Your Money Back? A little salesmanship wouldn't hurt...

Well, that's about it for me. I'm doomed, right? Eternal damnation; fire and brimstone; some guy with horns, in a red union suit, poking me with a pitchfork.

Nah. See, Jesus died for our sins and that even includes crummy jokes. Thank God.

And, if you're an atheist or otherwise not a believer in Christianity, I got you to actually consider this stuff for five minutes. I got you to read the name - Jesus - 12 or 13 times. I figure that's got to count for something.

Have a joyous Easter and I'll see you on Monday - unless I'm struck by lightning.


Stu said...

I'm reminded of Lenny Bruce's take on the theory that the Jews killed Jesus, and that people have been after the Jews for this ever since. As he's ranting about this, he says:

"Yes, we did it. I did it, my family. I found a note in my basement. It said: 'We killed him, signed, Morty.'"

Cath said...

Hi Jim,
I read this a while ago and got disturbed before commenting. I can't believe there aren't more comments on such a thought provoking post!
I hope God does have a sense of humour, after all, he made us with one. Without a sense of humour I guess it would be difficult to forgive and that is one thing I am clear about, that is God is a just God and does forgive those who TRULY repent.
I do feel uncomfortable sometimes with jokes that might border on "blasphemy" but I think it is all about your (one's) relationship with God and him knowing what is in your heart. The relationship is all important to me. That is what counts.
Great post and thanks for stopping by mine.

Buck said...

VERY worthwhile repost! And this is the most unique commentary on Good Friday I've ever read. Well done!

Happy Easter, Jim. said...

It is a good day and you won't be struck by lightning...He's already paid the price for even this tiny sin!

lime said...

a long time ago i read a book about god's sense of humor. i think it was called 'the joyful christ' by cal samre or somesuch (been a long time so don;t blame me if i am wrong) but the author made the point that christ had to have a great sense of humor just to be able to walk among us.

i knwo he at least has a sense of irony because i gave my oldest a name that means gentleness and she is anythign but!

Jeni said...

Earlier, reading Lime's post, as I wrote my comments, I questioned myself about calling any parts of her post for today as being "beautiful" or "awesome" even, as it seemed disrespectful some how to refer to words about this day, of all days, as being "beautiful" or even "awesome" although I firmly believe, deep inside, that it is an awesome day for what it brings us. And reading your post on Good Friday, reaffirms my beliefs not just in Christ and the Cross but also, that I too believe God does have a sense of humor too and being omnipotent, all-knowing, he knows what is in my heart, better than even I know or will ever possibly understand it too.
Sometimes, in our quest to understand God, and our zeal to do right and good, etc., we also forget for a time to use the sense of humor God gave us. Frankly, I kind of think He might give you a boost in seniority (so to speak) for being willing to speak up at all and expressing, quite eloquently really, your beliefs.

Anonymous said...

"And, if you're an atheist or otherwise not a believer in Christianity, I got you to actually consider this stuff for five minutes."

And then immediately discard it, as usual. But it was a VERY entertaining five minutes, I must say...

Melinda said...

Just wanted to say great re-post - and I don't think you have anything to worry about - all you have to do is consider anteaters, hiccups and the Toronto Maple Leafs to know that God's got a sense of humour :)

Happy Easter to you and YOUR WIFE!

Brian in Oxford said...

And then Mary said, "God, why aren't you wearing underwear?"

(ya know....the view....)

happy easter! (i still can't find a "spoken word only" Mass at 9 am, though....)

Suldog said...

Thank you all for your very thoughtful comments. It is extremely gratifying to know that you'd take the time to so eloquently present your own thoughts, concerning our relationship with God, after reading my post. Knowing the background of most of you (Christian and Jew, Atheist and Agnostic) I am glad that I could be both entertaining and thought-provoking without alienating you.

(Well, at least those of you who commented, anyway.)